|Double ’07: Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love and Celtics restoration||04.15.14 at 7:56 pm ET|
This is the second in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)
In order to justify holding Pierce on ice as a keeper, Ainge needed to land a big fish who could restore a winning culture to the Bay State’s once proud basketball franchise. Garnett did that and then some. Now, seven years later, the C’s president must reel in another catch, and the solution may reside in the Land of 10,000 Lakes once again.
For all the bellyaching about whether or not Kevin McHale helped steer Garnett to his former team, the Celtics offered the best package at the time. In the end, the deal centered around a double-double machine in Al Jefferson, and it’s not Ainge’s fault the Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry.
Come to think of it, Minnesota’s failure to capitalize on that Garnett trade may ultimately force the T-Wolves to deal Kevin Love. If David Kahn had played his cards right in the draft since 2007, he could have revealed a starting lineup of Curry, Love, Jefferson, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan within three years.
But, alas, the Timberwolves aren’t an uber-exciting All-Star squadron. They’re a .500 team. In the Western Conference, that gets you a lottery pick, and it doesn’t sit well with a perennial NBA All-Star. Just ask Garnett. Like KG in 2007, Love is nearing the end of his contract (Garnett had two years left, Love has one) and would require some convincing to sign an extension in Boston beyond his current deal.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, Ainge must ask himself two questions: 1) Is Kevin Love the kind of franchise-altering player who can help return the Celtics to their former glory, and 2) Do they have enough to get him?
|Kevin Love on loss to Celtics: ‘[Expletive] happens’||12.17.13 at 2:43 pm ET|
“We beat that team the large majority of the times we play,” said Love, who recorded 27 points and 14 assists against a soft interior Boston defense, “but, like they say, [expletive] happens.”
Asked if he felt his T-Wolves gifted the Celtics a victory, Love added, “Big time. Big time.”
The Timberwolves (12-13) did hand the Celtics a beating in their first meeting, a 106-88 decision in Minnesota last month. Prior to this season, however, the two-time NBA All-Star owned a 1-10 record in his career against the C’s, but this is a different Celtics team under a different Celtics coach — a younger roster that plays equally as hard, even if Love isn’t prepared to give them a whole lot of credit just yet.
“We thought we could’ve beat that team,” said Love. “They executed down the stretch, but more than anything we beat ourselves.”
|Kevin Garnett: Being called soft ‘still lives in the back of our minds’||12.06.12 at 1:51 am ET|
Kevin Garnett had heard enough about how the Celtics couldn’t rebound. He had heard it from the fans, media and even his head coach.
Doc Rivers put another carrot in front of his team this week when he said Kevin Love and the Timberwolves would kill the Celtics on the glass if they didn’t bring energy Wednesday night. Safe to say, the message hit home with Garnett and the Celtics, who outrebounded Minnesota, 45-41 in a 104-94 win at TD Garden.
“I think what you see here is that we as a team are trying to be better at rebounding,” Garnett said. “Doc’s been on our [butt] about giving up offensive rebounds, playing tougher, establishing something. Obviously, being called soft is not something that you want to be called. It still lives in the back of our minds. Still a work in progress.”
“This is a very good team we played tonight,” Garnett said beating a Timberwolves team that handled the Sixers a night before in Philadelphia. “They put it to Philly the night before and obviously they played back to back, but a very good team. Kevin Love has been a cast over there and it was by no means an easy game for us.”
Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds as his energy and attack mentality against Kevin Love led the way.
“When I’m out there hoopin’, I’m not really conscious of when it comes to defense,” Garnett said. “I know where my energy needs to be. I know my primary role. But I’m efficient. I know what I’m doing. I try to be aggressive when they need to be.”
Love had 19 points and 13 rebounds but the Celtics we able to control the Minnesota front court.
“We were aggressive, and we were aggressive from the early part of the game,” Garnett said. “We established a post early on. I thought defensively we played with a lot of energy. We made them go to their second and third options which is something they don’t like to do, but we did a decent job on Kevin. He obviously had a double double but for the most part we slowed him down a little bit and controlled the tempo. Having Rondo back was big for us, I thought he brought a lot of big energy. He was excited that he was back and probably fed off that.”
|Fast Break: Whole lotta Kevin Love can’t stop Celtics||12.05.12 at 9:52 pm ET|
Maybe Celtics coach Doc Rivers should give his aging stars the day off more often.
Two days after resting the over-36 crowd for a practice, Rivers watched Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 5 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 4 rebounds) lead his C’s to a 104-94 win over the visiting Timberwolves. Of course, Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists) returning from suspension didn’t hurt.
A whole lot of Kevin Love (19 points, 13 rebounds) couldn’t even help the T-Wolves (8-9), whose porous defense helped the Celtics improve to 10-8 on the season and 5-4 at the Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Minny driver: Last season, Garnett said he has “nothing positive to say” about his former NBA home, and he clearly played with an added edge against Minnesota. Not that Garnett doesn’t play with an edge every night, but he had a little something extra in the tank for the Timberwolves, starting 6-of-7 from the field and scoring 12 points in his first 11 minutes — his lone miss a failed shot clock buzzer-beater. He finished with his third double-double in his last five games to go along with four assists and an infinite number of dance moves during Gino Time.
Viejos amigos: Off the bench, the T-Wolves matched “6-foot” guard J.J. Barea against former Mavericks teammate Terry, who took advantage of his old friend. The Celtics guard made four of his six shots in the first half (1-2 3P), taking nine points, three rebounds and two assists into the break. He finished with 17 points on 10 shots.
Return of Rondo: Depending on how you look at it, Rondo either extended his streak of double-digit assists to 38 in games that he finishes or he just started a renewed march towards Magic Johnson‘s record of 46 straight games with 10 or more assists. Either way, Rondo returned to form after his two-game suspension for shoving Kris Humphries into the crowd. Apparently, his Mexican vacation served him well.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bearing gifts: As usual, the Celtics were in a giving mood, turning the ball over five times in their last six possessions before the half, including the final four. As a result, they turned what was once a seven-point lead into a 51-47 deficit at the break — thanks to Minnesota’s 10 fast-break points on a perfect 5-of-5 transition attempts. They cleaned it up a bit in the second half but still finished with 16 turnovers.
No Love lost: Leading up to the game, Pierce said, “Our main objective is to try and slow [Kevin Love] down. He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.” Easier said than done. Midway through the third quarter, Love already had his double-double.
Key unlocked: Not only did Love have his way around the basket, but the Timberwolves combined for 50 points in the paint. Fellow bigs Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham also combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds. Somehow, though, the Celtics out-rebounded Minnesota by a 45-41 margin.
|Doc Rivers: ‘Just glad’ Austin Rivers is playing while Avery Bradley provides ‘great news’||at 8:04 pm ET|
Sometimes Celtics head coach Doc Rivers sounds a lot like Bill Belichick.
Such was the case Wednesday pre-game when he was told that Avery Bradley told reporters he’s “maybe a week or two” from returning to practice after a pair of shoulder surgeries.
“Is that right? That’s great to hear,” Rivers said with a hearty laugh and smile. “I’m very happy to hear the news! Honestly, I didn’t know that because I don’t check. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte] will tell us when it’s time. I don’t focus on that stuff, guys being out. I have to focus on the guys wearing the uniform. With Avery, I talk to him every day and see how he’s doing, and I kid him about it but I don’t really ask.”
Rivers also spoke about his son Austin playing for the New Orleans Hornets, who may be on the verge of changing their name. Names like the Pelicans and Brass have been thrown out there to give the team a more regional flare. “I’m just glad he’s playing,” Rivers said.
On the return of Greg Stiemsma: “I’d love to have him here but I’m happy for him. He took advantage of a great situation, and I’m glad he did. He was terrific here.”
On Kevin Garnett and his impact on the Celtics and Timberwolves: “There’s a Hall of Fame and then there’s a table at the Hall of Fame Kevin has a table at the Hall of Fame”
Rivers said that Leandro Barbosa showed up Wednesday and will dress but is hoping to stay away from playing him as he is still under the weather.
|Paul Pierce and Celtics get another chance to prove their toughness against Kevin Love||12.04.12 at 6:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM — All season, the Celtics have been looking for a chance to prove their toughness.
At 9-8, they get another chance Wednesday night when they host the most impressive rebounder in the NBA. Kevin Love isn’t among the league leaders with 15.3 rebounds per game since he’s played just six games due to a broken knuckle on his right hand. But he will be eventually.
“Kevin Love is one of the best rebounders of our era,” said C’s coach Doc Rivers. “I know that’s saying something early on in his career, but he really is.”
In addition to coaching against him, Rivers got an up close and personal look at Love at the Olympics in London. Love, as Rivers noted Tuesday, was there helping Team USA flex its muscle early on in the Games while Team USA was still finding itself.
“Two of those games early in the Olympics were kind of close in the first half, the U.S. would have been down by 20 but Kevin Love kept getting rebounds and you stare at it and watch it, it’s an art.”
“Our main objective is to try and slow him down,” Paul Pierce said. “He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding, and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.”
Rivers thought the Celtics cleared a mental hurdle against the Thunder and Kevin Durant. Then they barely beat the Magic two days later and were beat up by the Nets. Pierce knows the Celtics can’t afford a relapse, even if they handle Love and the Timberwolves Wednesday.
“Going up against a guy like that definitely is a chance but it’s something you want to see consistently,” Pierce said. “In order to build and in order to get better, you can’t just pick your moments because you get one of the more physical players in the NBA coming into our building. It has to be a something that’s a mindset that we have to be able to do every night, regardless of who we’re going against”
Love is also averaging 21.7 points and represents the ultimate toughness challenge for Pierce and the Celtics, because he can also step back and shoot the three, though he has shot just 19.4 percent from long range this season.
“Kevin Love is such a different kind of player,” Pierce said. “He’s a power forward but he can step out and shoot the three, but he’s an interior player when it comes to rebounding and doing all the dirty work.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘I have nothing positive to say’ about Minnesota Timberwolves||03.30.12 at 2:36 pm ET|
On Friday night, the Celtics are shooting for their fourth straight victory and a sixth win in their last seven games when they travel to Minneapolis, the city Kevin Garnett called home for his first 12 NBA seasons.
Loyalty means everything to Garnett, and as we learned following Wednesday’s defeat of the Jazz, that devotion moved to Boston from Minnesota when the Timberwolves sent him to the Celtics in 2007 for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, cash considerations, their 2009 first-round draft pick and Minnesota’s 2009 first-round pick that they had traded to Boston in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak deal.
“It’s always special to come back to true fans and sort of your foundation, but as far as that franchise, I have nothing positive to say, so I’ll just let it be that,” said Garnett. “I think Kevin Love is playing at a high level. I think he’s rejuvenated the city as far as basketball goes. Other than that, nothing else.”
To say Love is playing at a high level might be an understatement, as he’s averaging 37.3 points and 16.3 rebounds over his last four games and playing himself into the MVP discussion. There’s been plenty of comparisons between Garnett vs. Love, but recently Garnett has guarded opposing centers, so it will be interesting to see if the two actually square off head-to-head in Friday night’s matchup.
Speaking of Garnett at the five position, as colleague Paul Flannery noted, he could be the perfect fill-in for the Celtics at center for the next two or three years. That would allow the Celtics to remain competitive with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and whoever else while maintaining some flexibility for the next round of superstar free agents in two or three years, when the C’s could make a run at someone like — you guessed it — Love.